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Medical Group Warns of Binge-Watching Health Risks

Should Netflix come with a health warning label?

If you’re staying up past your bedtime to power through the new season of “House of Cards” or catching up on “Orange Is the New Black” by pulling an all-nighter, you may be putting your health in jeopardy, according to a warning from a national medical group.

Binge-watchers who fail to get adequate sleep are in danger of suffering deteriorating “mood and cognitive abilities,” the American Academy of Sleep Medicine said in a statement Tuesday. In worst-case scenarios, sleep-deprived viewers are at risk of being “in a workplace accident or drowsy-driving crash,” the group said.

The medical organization was responding to comments by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who said on an earnings last month call that the company’s No. 1 competitor was sleep.

“Think about it when you watch a show from Netflix and you get addicted to it, you stay up late at night,” Hastings told analysts. “We’re competing with sleep on the margin.”

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults get at least seven or more hours of sleep nightly. And the org, whose members comprise sleep professionals and doctors, said it’s unwise to scrimp on getting your Z’s no matter how compelling the entertainment.

“You can stream your favorite shows and movies without sacrificing the sleep you need each night,” said Dr. Ronald Chervin, president of the AASM. “Responsible binge-watching is the way to balance your personal entertainment with your health and well-being.”

The AASM urged subscribers of Netflix — as well as HBO Now, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and other streaming services — to binge-watch responsibly.

The group provided several tips for safe binge-watching:

  • Set an episode limit each night before you begin watching
  • Take a break between each episode to get out of the “auto-play” loop
  • Download episodes on your smartphone to control how many you watch at once
  • Schedule time on the weekend to catch up on your favorite shows
  • To minimize the effects of brightly lit screens at night, use screen settings that filter blue light after sunset
  • Stream videos to your TV instead of your mobile device at night to reduce exposure to brightly lit, handheld screens
  • Avoid using mobile devices while in bed
  • Turn off all screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, established in 1975, provides more info on sleep and sleep disorders on its website, sleepeducation.org. It has more than 10,000 accredited members including sleep centers and individual physicians, scientists and other health-care professionals.

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